Supreme Court president steps down amid corruption scandal

July 17, 2018

The president of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court (CSJ), Carlos Chinchilla, left his position this Monday after being reprimanded for his role in an influence-peddling scandal involving imported Chinese cement.

Chinchilla, 55, informed the CSJ that he’d opt for early retirement four days after the Full Court reprimanded—with no legal consequences—him along with three other judges.

The judges were reprimanded for “serious misconduct,” after being investigated for influence peddling. The investigation found that the judges rejected a case against two legislators accused of collaborating with Juan Carlos Bolaños. Bolaños was at the center of a scandal involving imported Chinese cement, dubbed the Cementazo scandal, that rocked Costa Rica in 2017.

Bolaños, who’s currently in preventive detention, is accused of using political pressure and offered perks in exchange for the authorization to import Chinese cement with millions of dollars worth of unguaranteed credit from public banks.

Bolaños’s criminal network involved agents from all three branches of government. Over the course of the investigation, a CSJ magistrate and the attorney general were dismissed, as well as the manager and board of directors of the state-owned Bank of Costa Rica. The Vice Minister of Finance was also forced to resign.

Chinchilla and the other reprimanded judges irregularly exonerated the now-former legislators Otto Guevara and Víctor Morales Zapata, for influence-peddling charges despite having hundreds of taped calls between the legislators and Bolaños proving the charge.

The written reprimand was criticized across the country for having little weight, especially since the ex-Attorney General Bernice Smith, was suspended for two months over the same case.

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